Havre Daily News
Bill Rossiter combined three of his loves - teaching, music and his wife, Sharon - to produce a show titled “Who Shall Sing of the Valiant Woman?”
Songs performed by Bill and Sharon Rossiter include stories about women of myth and legend, women who followed their dreams and “women who don't take no guff,” Bill Rossiter said.
The program will be presented, in celebration of Women's History Month, by the Montana Committee for the Humanities Speakers Bureau on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Vande Bogart Library. The show is free and open to the public.
Bill was a night club entertainer before he began teaching folklore and humanities at Flathead Valley Community College. In his teachings, he learned about roots and traditional music. Sharon also is a retired teacher.
Bill said performing shows such as these is something he had always dreamed about. After he retired from teaching, he finally had the time to do it.
He has performed solo on the Hi-Line, with programs on the Great Depression and the days of homesteading, but Thursday will mark the duo's Havre debut. Last week, the couple traveled 1,600 miles on a six-day road trip that included shows in Billings and Scobey. They have performed together for about seven years. The Kalispell couple performs songs as recent as Woody Guthrie's “Union Maid,” who stood up to the “goons and ginks and company finks,” and tunes three centuries old. The couple plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and autoharp, and string the songs together background information on the material.
The Rossiters tell of “The Bonny Lass of Anglesey,” who defeated king's warriors in an athletic contest; Harriet Tubman, who rescued others from the slavery she had escaped; and Molly Jackson, who braved the wrath of mine owners and their strikebreakers.
In a comic song included in the program, a woman “establishes limits” by giving her husband the occasional bop on the head with a soup ladle. In the song she advises brides-to-be: “Wherever you are, whatever you do, always take your ladle with you.”
Bill said he has known some of the songs since he was a child and he's researched the origins of the material.
Some tunes that are commonly thought of as love songs are less endearing than they seem, he said.
One example is “My Darling Nelly Gray.”
“The song itself, most people would have heard it as a love song of a man who lost his lady love, but she was actually sold to slavery. It was written as an anti-slavery song by Nebraska school teachers,” he said.
The event is co-sponsored by the Vande Bogart Library, and Montana State University-Northern's Department of Arts and Sciences and ReSPONSE anti-violence organization.
For more information, please call the Vande Bogart Library at 265-3706.